09 May 2006

Now it's murder

Belfast Telegraph

Two days after being savagely assaulted by a dozen bigoted thugs, 15-year-old Michael McIlveen loses his fight for life

By Emily Moulton and Debra Douglas
09 May 2006

Police have launched a murder inquiry following the death of a Co Antrim teenager who was savagely beaten in a sectarian attack in Ballymena at the weekend.

Michael McIlveen (15) from Dunvale was brutally attacked by a gang of up to a dozen thugs during the early hours of Sunday morning as he was on his way home from a pizza parlour at about 12.30am.

It is understood the St Patrick's College student had been chased by the gang after a row flared at the IMC cinema complex in the town.

While police would not confirm how many people were involved or the exact details of what happened to the 15- year-old, his family claimed he was beaten with baseball bats by a gang of at least a dozen attackers who also jumped on his head.

Early yesterday evening his family, who were too distraught to talk to the media, were maintaining a bedside vigil at Antrim Area Hospital in the hope Michael might pull through.

It is understood the teenager received serious head injuries in the attack and was on life support, but he lost his battle for life at around 8pm last night.

Last night Ballymena Borough Council adjourned its regular council meeting as a mark of respect to the McIlveen family.

Mayor Tommy Nicholl said he was deeply saddened by the news of Michael's death and wanted to convey his deepest sympathies to the family on behalf of the people in Ballymena.

Appeals for calm made in wake of murder

Mr Nicholl also called for both sections of the community to remain calm and pledged his full support for the PSNI investigation.

"I am encouraging the PSNI to follow all lines of inquiries in an effort to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.

"I can only imagine the pain the McIlveens are going through right now and I would encourage both sections of the community to remain calm to show respect to the family."

Earlier yesterday DCU Commander Superintendent Terry Shevlin said detectives were studying CCTV footage in a bid to identify the gang members.

He said police were "quite clear that the motive for this assault was of a sectarian nature" and joined local politicians in appealing for calm and called on those with influence to step in to prevent any further attacks.

He said: "I'm making a clear appeal to civic leaders, community leaders and others with influence in the Ballymena area to not only condemn this, which every rightthinking person would do, but to exercise whatever influence they can to prevent any retaliatory attacks that would have another family in the position this family is currently undergoing."

Four youths were being questioned about the incident last night.

It is thought one of them is Catholic.

A fifth youth was arrested late last night in connection with the incident.

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